The lentil plant of the legume family, grown for its lens-shaped seeds. With 25% protein lentil are the vegetable with the highest level of protein other than soybeans, and because of this it is a very important part of the diet in many parts of the world, and especially South Asia which has a large vegetarian population.
A variety of lentils exist with colors that range from yellow to red-orange to green, brown and black. The colours of the seeds when removed from the pods also vary, and there are large and small varieties. They are sold in many forms, with or without the pods, whole or split.
The seeds have a short cooking time and a distinctive earthy flavor. Lentils are used to prepare an inexpensive and nutritious soup all over Europe and North America, sometimes combined with some form of pork. They are frequently combined with rice, which has a similar cooking time. Lentils are used throughout the Mediterranean regions and the Middle East.
In South Asia, lentils are known as dal, as are most sorts of dried legumes. The dishes made predominantly of lentils are also known as dal. India is the largest producer of lentils in the world.
A famous variety of small green lentils known for their earthy flavor is grown in Le Puy, France. These "Le Puy lentils" were the first dry vegetable protected by the French AOC (Appelation d'Origine Controlée) designation.